MERCED -- Trophies either are forgotten dust-catchers or prized possessions reminding people of past accomplishments. They don't last forever and can end up in the closet, a thrift store or, worse yet, the landfill.
El Capitan High School existed for just three years but that was time enough to amass a display case full of trophies. But it vanished about 15 years ago and Mike Bik would like to find it.
Bik, president of the El Capitan alumni association, is hopeful residents might know what happened to the trophies. He's hoping they can be placed in a trophy case at the new El Capitan High School, which is due to open next year.
"I've searched high and low," Bik said. "We're concerned they may be gone for good."
In 1962, the school's final year, El Capitan athletes won three North Sequoia League championships -- in basketball, baseball and tennis. The El Capitan Gaucho Band took first place in its division at a band review in Long Beach and the "Seven Sweethearts" majorettes won sweepstakes honors there. The school won the league's sportsmanship award all three years.
"All we've been able to determine is that these awards and trophies disappeared from the Merced High campus on Olive Avenue sometime in the late 1990s," Bik said.
Principal Fred Pfitzer watched over the El Capitan memorabilia while he was there, Bik said. In 1962, senior class president Steve Hopkins gave the school the trophy case as a class gift.
Tim Smith, of Winton, graduated from El Capitan in 1962. He said the trophies were moved to the library and then to a Merced Union High School District storage warehouse.
"No one's been able to find them," Smith said. "It would be nice. A lot of kids are still around."
Jerry Callister of Merced, a 1961 graduate and the school's first student body president, is hopeful some of the El Capitan trophies can be found, believing some are now in the hands of individual students.
"They may be gracious enough to give them back," Callister said.
Callister said he has two El Capitan High footballs and will donate them for the future display.
One was from the school's first football game, against Mariposa, and the other was from the game with crosstown rival Merced High. Both footballs were signed by all the players.
"I'd be happy to give them back to the school," he said.
Bik said several El Capitan alumni will donate individual trophies. Tom Hawkins, the basketball coach, has donated his championship basketball jacket, with the championship patch on the chest.
"The basketball trophy was the first one for Merced in 25 years," Bik said. "Mr. Pfitzer protected our mementos. When he left, we don't know what happened."
Bik said he has gathered several lettermen jerseys and sweaters. He suspects there are other band and sports trophies, some for junior varsity athletes. All he has been able to recover is a picture of the band trophies.
Those with information about the trophies are asked to call Bik at (209) 725-1450 or Anthony Johnson, principal of the new school, at (209) 230-5624.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.